Reform Movements

1791 Rhode Island textile mills hire women to make cloth.
1808 Importation of slaves becomes illegal in the United States.
1820 The Missouri Compromise (used to maintain balance between free and slave states in the United States) is passed.
1821 Emma Willard founds the Troy Female Seminary in Troy, New York, the first American institution of advanced education for women.
1824 Women and men conduct the first labor strike in the textile mills of Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
1827 The slave, Isabella Van Wagener, later known as Sojourner Truth, escapes from her master and joins a Quaker household. She becomes a crusader for African Americans and women.
1828 Sarah and Angelina Grimké, members of a South Carolina slave-owning family, begin working in the abolition movement in the Northeast.
1830 The moral reform social movement in the United States begins and consists primarily of women. Moral reform was a campaign in the 1830s and 1840s to abolish sexually immoral behavior (licentiousness), prostitution, and the sexual double standard, and to promote sexual abstinence among the young as they entered the marriage market.
1831 William Lloyd Garrison publishes “The Liberator,” the newspaper of the militant abolition movement.
1833 The founding meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) is held.
1833 Oberlin College, the first racially integrated and co-educational college, opens in Ohio.
1834 Phillis Wheatley’s 18th century poems are re-published and are believed to be the first African American’s poems published in the United States.
1835 The first State Anti-Slavery Convention is held in Utica, New York.
1836 Angelina Grimké begins working as a lecturer for the American Anti-Slavery Society.
1836 Rochester, New York establishes an anti-slavery society.
1837 Two hundred women attend the Women’s Anti-Slavery Convention in New York City, the first national political meeting of women.
1837 Mary Lyon founds Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (later Mount Holyoke College) in Massachusetts, the first school to offer a college education for women.
1839 Abby Kelly begins travelling and lecturing against slavery.
1839 The American Anti-Slavery Society splits when a woman, Abby Kelley Foster is elected to the business committee.
1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention is held in London, England.
1840 The Rochester, New York newspaper, Workingmen’s Advocate promotes public education for children.
1844 The Lowell, Massachusetts Female Labor Reform Association, one of the first labor associations for working women, is organized by female textile workers.
1846 Amelia Bloomer begins publishing The Lily, a newspaper promoting temperance.
1847 Frederick Douglass begins publishing The North Star in Rochester, New York.
1848 The first Woman’s Rights Convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York. The adjourned meeting is held in Rochester, New York. The Declaration of Sentiments, based on the Declaration of Independence is adopted.
1848 The Oneida Community is formed in New York. Property is held in common, women have equal rights with men, and childcare is shared.
1848 A convention of seamstresses meets to organize the Women’s Political Union to fight for equal rights for women, reduction in their fifteen-hour workday, and a raise in minimum wages.
1848 The American Academy of Arts and Sciences votes Maria Mitchell as the first woman member after her discovery of a comet in 1847.
1849 In Seneca Falls, New York, Elizabeth Smith Miller begins wearing the outfit that will become known as “bloomers.”
1850 Workers are killed by police in a labor dispute during a strike of New York City tailors.
1850 Harriet Tubman begins helping slaves escape. At times, the slaves use the Underground Railroad.
1851 Myrtilla Minder opens the first school to train black women as teachers in Washington, D.C.
1852 Susan B. Anthony organizes the first Women’s State Temperance Society in New York.
1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes the novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which is given credit for inciting Northerners against slavery.
1853 Rochester, New York seamstresses form the first clothing workers union in the city.
1853 The first strike by African-American union members is staged by waiters in New York City. Their success inspires white waiters to establish a union.
1853 Florence Nightingale organizes wartime nursing during the Crimean War in Europe.
1853 World’s Temperance Convention in New York City is held.
1855 Elmira (Female) College is founded in Elmira, New York, the first woman’s institution to grant degrees.
1855 Iowa is the first state to admit women to its public university.
1857 Elizabeth Blackwell opens the hospital, the New York Infirmary for Women and Children.
1860 Susan B. Anthony and Samuel J. May are burned in effigy in Syracuse, New York by mobs opposed to abolition.
1861 The freedmen’s aid movement begins. Civilian whites travel to the South to educate former slaves and supervise their work as free laborers.
1862 United States Congress passes the Morrill Act, establishing land grant colleges in rural areas. These schools allow women to earn low-cost degrees.
1862 President Lincoln announces the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in areas rebelling against the Union.
1863 The Workingmen’s Assembly was founded in Rochester, New York. It was the first central trades council in the United States.
1865 The Thirteenth Amendment abolishes slavery.
1868 The Fourteenth Amendment gives citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States, including former slaves.
1868 The Working Women’s Protective Union is established in New York City. It gives free legal aid to workers, acts as employment agencies, and lobbies for laws to protect women workers.
1868 The National Labor Union supports equal pay for equal work.
1870 Esther Morris of Wyoming is appointed the first woman Justice of the Peace.
1870 Augusta Lewis of New York City is elected Corresponding Secretary for the International Typographical Union (ITU), the first woman to hold such a position in a national union.
1870 The Fifteenth Amendment gives former male slaves the right to vote.
1873 The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is organized in Fredonia, New York.
1873 Maria Mitchell helps found the American Association for the Advancement of Women. Its goal is to promote higher education and professional possibilities for women.
1874 Susan B. Anthony of Rochester, New York urges equal rights for women workers before the National Industrial Council.
1874 First national convention of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in Cleveland, Ohio.
1875 Smith College opens in Massachusetts, a women’s college created and endowed by Sophia Smith’s estate.
1877 Helen Magill becomes the first woman to receive a Ph.D. from an American school, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts.
1877 Philomena Daniels becomes the first woman in the world licensed as Pilot and Master for steamboat navigation. Her boat runs on Lake Champlain.
1879 Frances Willard becomes the leader of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
1881 The Women’s National Indian Association is founded by Mary Lucinda Bonney and Amelia Stone Quinton.
1881 Spelman College, a school for black women in Atlanta, Georgia opens.
1881 Clara Barton establishes the American branch of the Red Cross and becomes its first president.
1886 The American Federation of Labor (AFL) organizes at Columbus, Ohio.
1887 Black baseball player, John Fowler begins playing for the Binghamton (New York) Bings. He is a pioneer of integrated baseball.
1889 Alfred Tredway White builds one of the earliest public housing complexes in America in Brooklyn Heights, New York.
1890 Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr found Hull House, a settlement house project in Chicago, Illinois. Their work coincides with American women’s increased professional involvement in social work.
1891 Ida B. Wells, newspaper owner in Memphis, Tennessee begins a nation-wide anti-lynching campaign.
1893 Susan B. Anthony, Helen Montgomery, and other women organize the Women’s Education and Industrial Union (WEIU) to help safeguard the interests of working women.
1896 The National Association of Colored Women (NACW) is founded by Margaret Murray Washington. Mary Church Terrell is the first president.
1897 The Jewish Daily Forward in New York City becomes one of the important socialist newspapers in the United States and a leader with the Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrants.
1903 The Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) is founded in Boston, Massachusetts to fight for better working conditions for women.
1903 Rose Schneiderman organizes the first female local of the Jewish Socialist United Cloth Hat and Cap Makers’ Union.
1903 Mary Wiltsic Fuller founds Holiday House at Lake George, New York as a low-cost resort for young women workers in the collar factories of Troy, New York.
1906 The first sit-down strike in the United States occurs at a General Electric plant in Schenectady, New York when 3,000 workers refuse to work.
1909 The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded by a multi-racial group of activists.
1909 The “Uprising of the 20,000,” a strike by women shirtwaist workers in New York City occurs.
1910 Buffalo, New York teachers form a union called the Educational League and demand increases in pay.
1911 The Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City catches fire and 146 women and girls are killed. Investigations following the fire lead to the enactment of several New York state labor laws.
1912 Ten thousand woolen textile workers from almost forty different nationalities went on strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts. This strike became known as the “Bread and Roses” strike, the request for a living wage and for time for the spirit and mind.
1912 The Wage Earners Suffrage League hold a suffrage rally in New York City.
1912 Juliette Gordon Low organizes the Girl Guides, later known as the Girls Scouts of the U.S.A.
1914 Margaret Sanger publishes Woman Rebel and calls for the legalization of contraceptives.
1914 Women join the workforce at home as men join the war effort.
1916 Margaret Sanger and Ethel Byrne open the first United States birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York. It is shut down ten days later and the women are tried and imprisoned.
1920 The Nineteenth Amendment — The Susan B. Anthony Amendment — giving women the right to vote is passed.